To Be Honest

To be honest, if you wanted all the chairs
I would let you have them, not just the one
in the dining room where you watch us
and sleep, alternating eyes open,
flickering in a dream, your throat swallowing
under its thumb of white.
To be honest, I need to walk more,
and I cheer for you about the chicken bones
(even though I know they’re not good)
because I know how you scavenged
to stay alive, and it’s good to feel capable,
to know you still can. You trot ahead of me
with your tail up, all the way home.
To be honest, on your second day here,
when I emailed to say
I couldn’t go to a thing for work
because you were new and crying,
and seemed to need me most of all,
it felt like maternity leave again.

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New Picture Cook Book

Is it time for fresh cherry pie
after a mountain trout luncheon
in the charming, steeped-in-tradition home
of Gladys Mason, a true Californian, or

Mabel Ross, formerly of our staff?
Poor Mabel. Where has she gone?
It wasn’t enough, her eggnog chiffon pie
after a dinner of Italian spaghetti,
buttered green beans. It takes more

than that, Mabel, to earn a seat on our
gay, paprika-colored sectional sofa,
or a uniform and a place to stand in our
Homemaker Kitchen in Golden Valley.

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The Hoo Hoo Lady

I’m like the old lady on the #6 bus
(Jeffery 6, before it became Jackson Park 6)
who used to cry, “Hoo hoo!”–
a weird, stagey cry meant to get attention,
and if you asked her what was wrong,

she’d unspool a whole narrative about
a broken vacuum cleaner and her mother,
alive in the story but surely not in fact,
and sometimes she would alternate “Hoo hoo!”

with “Stupid!” which she spat out
in no certain direction while staring
into the aisle or out at the lake,
the latter of which, whether leaden
or innocent blue, never did care.

And one time, when some politician was new,
she asked, “Do you know what he’s going to do?”
And her seatmate, a stranger, said, “No. What?”
But it turned out that this was not rhetorical —
she didn’t know but was sure it wouldn’t be good.

The hoo hoo lady is long gone now,
as dead as any vacuum parts
or her mother, and part of me is glad
that she didn’t live to see any of this,

but I am not dead

yet,

am still alive to see —
I, who sometimes ride the bus
and ask questions,

and cry.

 

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